Continuing our month of vegetarian choices! I’m being extra careful to not use words like “cheat, guilt, good, bad,” and so on. I think that thought pattern surrounding food can be so damaging, but also I agree that in terms of physical health there are foods that are better for our bodies than others, if we’re talking lentils vs cheetos.
Now, in terms of mental health or happiness or convenience? We could go on all day about those things.
But today, instead of my not wanting you to have “cheat days,” we ARE talking lentils. I love lentils, but even if you don’t I think you could stomach these. They are SO flavorful (because salt) and honestly I could eat a bowl of them on their own. We made this into a fun bowl with bright pink pickled onions, a shortcut gremolata, and toasty roasty cauliflower, one of my favorite substitutes for meat because when roasted it has just the best texture.
The idea for this came from an Instagram account Jay follows but he couldn’t show me a recipe or the actual account or image (?), so he described a picture to me and this is what I came up with. So, if you made some amazing cauliflower bowls and this feels like a copycat, tell me! And I’ll credit you if it was your original image.
I like to work on the lentils first, then roast the cauliflower and tomatoes while the lentils simmer. While the lentils and cauliflower cook, I make any toppings I’m using. Pickled red onions, tahini sauce, and the gremolata in this case, but fresh herbs, lemon wedges, other cheeses, olives, or anything else you can imagine would be wonderful.
For the lentils, dice some onion and mince some garlic.
Saute the onion and garlic in a small pan with a lid with some olive oil over medium heat for about three minutes, then add the lentils and veggie stock to the pot. Cover the lid and simmer the lentils for 30-40 minutes (or whatever the package says) just until they’re tender but not mushy. Check them at the lowest time your package suggests. If there is some liquid left in the pot, let the lentils finish simmering uncovered to evaporate a bit of the stock. Add a few pinches of salt each time you check the lentils until they are very flavorful.
Meanwhile, roast the cauliflower and tomatoes. I do this on two separate pans when I make a lot, but the cook temperature and time are the same! 425F for 25 minutes. I drizzle the cauliflower and tomatoes with oil and sprinkle them with salt, then sprinkle zaatar all over the cauliflower.
When they’re roasty and tender, they’re done!
Now, while those two big things are working, make anything you’d like to put on top of the bowls. Again, I went all out with toppings, but you can grab just a few things to prep or chop and the bowls will be just as delicious. I love pickled red onions: microwave some water, vinegar, salt, and sugar together, then drop some sliced red onion in the mixture. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so. These keep wonderfully in the fridge.
The tahini sauce is made with plain tahini, water, salt, sugar, and minced garlic. EASY. Whisk it together, adjust the flavors, and add more water if you need to thin it out at all. I sometimes make tahini sauce with lemon juice, so if you like more tang on top of your bowls definitely go that route.
I wanted something green on the bowls, and gremolata is usually finely chopped herbs, garlic, citrus zest, salt, and sometimes some nuts. Here I just used pesto, lemon zest, and extra garlic and the result was SO good. This could definitely be skipped for a sliced green onion or some fresh herbs, but I was feeling extra because I made these on a Sunday and it was sunny and both kids were happy at the same time.
So now! The lentils are tender but not mushy. Add MORE salt if you aren’t sure. These should be good enough that you’d eat them on their own.
Then we have everything else for our bowls. Roasted cauliflower and tomatoes, pickled red onions, pesto gremolata, crumbled feta cheese, and tahini sauce.
Build bowls however you like, go excessive on the toppings, and lunch or dinner is READY.
I love these for a thousand reasons, but a big one here is that the components are great as leftovers. If there was one thing that wasn’t perfect I’d say it was the cauliflower, but you could make EVERYTHING except for the cauliflower and tomatoes on the weekend, then roast veggies and have this great dinner on a weeknight. I did eat the cauliflower leftover, though, and it was still delicious. The deep flavors of zaatar are so good with the tahini and tangy tomatoes.
PS zaatar is a middle eastern spice blend that we use all the time on roasted veggies and chicken, but if you don’t have any just…skip it. Seriously, there is plenty of flavor without going out of your way for something you don’t use a ton. OR OR OR buy some and use it all the time. Your call.
The recipe below looks a little high maintenance, but trust me when I say that all of the components are super easy and the bowls are delicious with just one or two toppings. I wanted you to have options in your new year, though, so you’re welcome for that.
Make these soon! Maybe for lunch or dinner on Sunday then for lunches all week.